My son has told me he’s thinking of the Priesthood, and he’s only 15. Isn’t he too young to even consider this?
If we know anything, it’s that God calls each man individually and uniquely. Your son may need to mature a lot before accepting the gift of the priesthood. However in every phase of life there are appropriate ways for him to listen to God’s call and deepen his trust of the Lord’s will for him.
Shouldn’t my son have the experience of a co-ed college and even a career before exploring the priesthood?
In reality, the priesthood is an exceptional calling that can be discerned along with marriage, not as a second choice. For each man, the time to enter seminary and spend time in formation is different. Seminary is such an extraordinarily good place for formation that generally it is better to go sooner rather than later. In addition, if your son is not called to the priesthood, this will become clear in seminary. For most men it is better to know earlier that you are not called, rather than continuing to wonder whether or not you have ignored God’s call.
How could my son be called? He is interested in girls and is dating.
God has shown us over and over that our ways are not His ways. Many priests were dating and even engaged before they went to the seminary to discern the priesthood. They knew their call from God was something that had to be answered, even as they continued to feel strong attraction to marriage. (Don’t compare the strength of desires, which is emotionally and spiritually confusing). It is more normal for a young man to desire both the priesthood and marriage, than to desire only one to the detriment of the other.
I want to support my son, but I’m anxious about him going to the seminary. Is he committed to being ordained when he enters the seminary?
No, not at all. We encourage young men to give the seminary at least one year, and preferably two so they can properly discern if they are truly being called to the priesthood. This gives them the chance to see how they do academically, have some experience in parish ministry, receive spiritual guidance, and spend more time with God in the sacraments and in prayer. We too are determining if they are a suitable candidate for the priesthood, so seminary is a time for everyone to see how the call develops. Seminary is a one step at a time process and every year a man or two may determine their call is not to the priesthood.
Are parents involved in the application process and will we see him once he enters the seminary?
Parents can definitely be involved, but it varies according to the personality of the young man, his relationship with his parents, and the parents themselves. Some men are private by nature and won’t share much of their private life, whether it involves a dating relationship or thinking of the priesthood. Don’t assume the process is secretive just because he doesn’t say much; just strive for open communication with your son. If you are interested, ask if you can visit a seminary with him or meet the vocation director. Fr. Mitchel is more than happy to meet the parents of a prospective seminarian to answer questions and explain the process. Our seminaries are open places where family and friends can visit during family weekends and other important times. During holiday breaks and summers, seminarians can be at home or in the area doing pastoral ministry. If he should be ordained a priest for the Archdiocese, he would be assigned to a parish in our boundaries. In the secular world sons can take jobs all over the country and be much further away.
What can you tell me about having a son as a priest?
Parents who have a son as a priest are truly blessed. Their son is there for them in a very special way during times of joy and sorrow. They can baptize nieces and nephews, be a part of their cousin’s first Holy Communion, perform wedding ceremonies for their siblings, console the family in times of tragedy, and bury their beloved deceased family members. Parents are included in the rite of ordination, and usually receive the first blessing of their son, and the first fruits of his priesthood. These are represented by the mother receiving the maniturgium (white linen his consecrated hands were wrapped in at ordination). His father receives the purple stole he was given to hear his first confessions. In general, parents of priests say they are gratified to see their son find his true vocation and minister to their family and so many others.
Do you have any final words of advice?
Yes, use the Blessed Mother as your model. She often didn’t understand what Jesus was doing or why. Sometimes she may have been scared. But she stepped aside and let him do his ministry as he accomplished his mission on earth. Parents, in allowing their son to be called, must spend much time in prayer hoping their son will be a good priest and will truly hear the Lord’s will for them. Your support is critical to the future health and fruitfulness of your son’s priesthood. With trust will come peace, because you too will have come to be grateful for the vocation God has given your son.